Difficult year for ArcelorMittal

ARCELORMITTAL, SA's R440million loss for the year to December, compares with earlier year profit of R9,5billion, after an awful year in the steel industry.

But the results, released yesterday, show that there was a significant improvement in the last quarter, and the losses were less than the R844million loss reported at the half year.

In the fourth quarter, headline earnings of R469million were achieved, against an average R303million loss each quarter in the first three quarters.

Chief executive Nonkululeko Nyembezi-Heita said the results reflected a difficult year, in which sales volumes dropped 12percent. Domestic sales dropped 30percent, and this was only partially offset by a 95percent increase in export sales.

During the year production slowed and capital projects were put on hold, though some projects have now been reactivated. During 2009 commodity prices sank. International iron ore spot prices dropped by 46percent while international coking coal prices dropped 66percent.

While exports increased markedly, exports to Africa remained strong and Asia had been most resilient, she said, but exports to the Americas and Europe were now "almost negligible". The group's electricity bill increased by 30percent during the year, and would have been much higher if it had been operating on full capacity.